The World's Richest Athletes of All Time

Highest Net Worth among Former and Current Athletes

The World's Richest Athletes of All Time
June 3, 2015

With all the hype about Floyd Mayweather's enormous (and some say, unearned) payday after his recent bout with Manny Pacquiao, you might think that he is near the top of the list of richest athletes. While Mayweather is nicknamed "Money" for a good reason, he barely makes the top ten in net worth for athletes and former athletes worldwide.

Who's at the top of the list? Michael Jordan? Guess again: Ion Tiriac, of course. Who?

For those of us in middle age, he will always be remembered for his mustache and his hilarious Miller Lite ad with Bob Uecker, but his wealth has far surpassed his sporting fame — at least in America.

Read on to find out about Tiriac and the others in the top ten list, according to each athlete's category of We have edited the list to leave out those who were only coaches, executives, or managers — we believe at least some direct professional-level competition in the sport was necessary for inclusion — but we will mention those other sporting figures at the end along with their net worth.

  1. Ion Tiriac – How many athletes can compete at elite levels in two sports, especially ones as diverse as tennis and ice hockey? Romanian-born Tiriac did just that, starting out as a hockey player on the Romanian Olympic Team in 1964. He switched to professional tennis, winning 22 career doubles tennis titles. Tiriac is now worth approximately $2 billion through his multiple business enterprises in Germany and Eastern Europe.

  2. Michael Jordan – The six-time NBA champion and majority owner of the Charlotte Hornets is worth approximately $1 billion. Besides being a sports mogul, Jordan has made millions off commercial endorsements, most famously with Nike and his popular Air Jordan line.

  3. Michael Schumacher – The German Formula One driver comes in third with $800 million in net worth. His racing career began in 1991, and his annual income from endorsements has been as high as $50 million. He has kept a very low profile since a near-fatal skiing accident in 2013.

  4. Arnold Palmer – The legendary golfer is worth $675 million through his many golf-related industries and endorsements, not to mention prize money from his 62 wins on the PGA Tour during his playing days.

  5. Roger Staubach – The former Navy man and Dallas Cowboys quarterback is worth approximately $600 million, mostly through real estate dealings.

  6. Tiger Woods – At one time, it was inconceivable that Woods would not top this list someday — and he may still do so — but after his infamous family troubles and the subsequent degradation of his golf game, Woods is no longer a sure thing as the eventual richest athlete. He lost many endorsements, but he still has tremendous star power as well as $580 million in net worth.

  7. Magic Johnson – The former LA Lakers star and entrepreneur has accumulated $500 million through his basketball earnings, endorsements, and his investments through Magic Johnson Enterprises. MJE is known for attempting to establish goods and services in underserved urban areas.

  8. Ayrton Senna – While Senna passed away in a tragic racetrack accident in 1994, his net worth at the time of his death was approximately $400 million. Certainly, the Brazilian racing star would be further up this list had he survived.

  9. Floyd Mayweather – Finally, we get to Money. At the time of this listing, Mayweather's net worth was estimated at $380 million, so it's possible that after the Pacquiao fight payout is finalized he will be closer to sixth or seventh place. Mayweather (pictured above) remains undefeated with 48 wins, and will likely fight one or two more times before calling it a career.

  10. David Beckham – The handsome retired soccer star and husband of "Posh Spice," Beckham is worth approximately $350 million.

The sports figures we skipped are Vince McMahon, the wrestling icon ($750 million); the since-deceased owner of the Oakland Raiders, Al Davis ($500 million); Irish Grand Prix racing mogul Eddie Jordan ($475 million); former Brewers owner and baseball commissioner Bud Selig ($400 million); track and field coach Bill Bowerman ($400 million); and he of the "Let's Get Ready to Rumble," boxing ring announcer Michael Buffer ($400 million). Include them in your own list if you want. Who are we to argue?

The next five on the list are Shaquille O'Neal, Roger Federer, Greg Norman, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees. Will any of these five, or any other athletes (maybe LeBron?), overtake the current top ten? Only time will tell.

Photo by PEPITOHD (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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